This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Saturday Rave: The Trumpet Major by Thomas Hardy.

The Duke of Goucester's Band, 1811

Should a novel have a twist? Should there be a sudden turn of the plot that makes you realise that all your assumptions are false?

Is, basically, a twist a Good Thing in Itself?

'I read to the end, wanting to know what the twist was, and then there wasn't one,' said one on-line review I came across not long ago, in bafflement and outrage.

It made me consider the twist as a plot device, and I thought I'd write an occasional series about books that clobber you with something unexpected at or near the end.

I'm going to try to do it without spoilers, which may be slightly perverse, but, hey... 

The Trumpet Major by Thomas Hardy is a classic two-guys-and-a-girl (and another guy, and a couple of other girls) story. It takes place in a village near Weymouth (called Budmouth in the novel) around the time of Napoleon's projected invasion of England. There are lots of comic yokels (think Dad's Army but with tall hats) but the main story follows the two sons of a miller, one the upright and responsible trumpet major (a trumpet major is the chief trumpeter of a regiment) and one a charming but unreliable ex-merchant seaman. They both love the same girl. The trumpet major loves her seriously, deeply, and constantly; and his more relaxed brother loves her rather intermittently. Basically, the ex-sailor proves himself quite happy to love anyone who's thrown his way.

I described the two-guys-and-a-girl story as classic, and that means that everyone knows what the ending is supposed to be. So, basically, if there's a twist, we already know which way it'll turn.

Unless, of course, we don't.

Word To Use Today: trumpet. This word comes from the Old French trompette, a little trump. 

For the removal of doubt, that's the sort of trump made by a brass wind instrument.

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